Thursday, August 24, 2006

Evidence of Things Seen. Richard Wollman. ( The Sheep Meadow Press POBOX 1345 Riverdale-on-Hudson NY 10471)

Simmons College literature professor Richard Wollman in his new poetry collection: “Evidence Of Things Seen” writes of shucking clams, of Lester Young in a ruminating Paris, of a church that reflects the images of subverted and converted Jews, and he does it with elegiac and evocative language. In his poem “Pressure” Wollman describes his inept attempts to shuck clams. Here is a portrait of a poet who is just as shucked as his crustacean charges:

“but there was no remedy
for dull knife slips in the flesh
of my hand beneath the thumb
where I’d slice myself open
like an unprotected clam.
It was ruining my hands.
The boss knew I didn’t have
to do this for my living
and waited for me to quit,
baited me, making me stand
on the bar to clean the grease…

No one ever poured a drink
until I dragged myself back.
there, the only one who could
no longer smell the liquor
of the fish all over us.”

I have always been a fan of the “ Pres” and “Lady Day,”. In “Lester Young in Paris” we have a portrait of the “Pres” (Young), the famous jazz saxophonist, as deadens his pain, and his ghosts with booze and his art. In some respects the poem reads like a haunting, late night jazz composition:

“In the studio he wore felt slippers.
It was a way to live,

deaden the noise of fists,
the reedy wheeze of his breath

stolen one night in a white barracks.
And the squawk of hospital doors up north.

In curved brass, pain takes
the shape of song, the sense

variously drawn out. What can be made
of the low sounds

of men? He drank deep
until he finally drowned them.”


Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Aug 2006

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